Now More Than Ever, We Need Our Planet & Our Planet Needs Us

The acceleration of our planet’s climate crisis can be felt universally with increasingly intense weather-related events, food shortages, and our oceans' seemingly infinite plastic content. We are truly at a crossroads when it comes to conservation; the action we take or fail to take will ultimately determine the health of this place we call home for generations. 

At the same time, our planet’s inhabitants are suffering. Rates of physical and mental illness in the United States were at an all-time high before the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this reason, the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge are thrilled to unveil “Ding” Nature Wellness: Mind, Body, & Heart -- our timely approach to sustainable conservation and personal wellness. 

'Ding' Nature Wellness: MIND

Vast bodies of research support the vital impact that nature exposure, especially intentional time in nature, has on mental wellbeing. Read this study to learn more. 

What we offer for wellness of the mind:

  • The Self-Guided Mindfulness Trail (established in February 2022) offers visitors a more intentional, connected nature experience. The trail follows the Bailey Tract’s pre-existing Common Gallinule Trail, spans 0.3 miles and features five stand-alone kiosks with written and audio mindfulness-in-nature exercises. 
    • Can’t get to Sanibel? View the trail virtually HERE or listen to the trail’s mindfulness exercises (free) on Anchor or Spotify.
  • Join us for mindfulness and meditation programs at Sanibel Recreation Center.
    • Beginning in January 2023, and in partnership with the Sanibel Recreation Center, Refuge mindfulness experts will offer Guided Mindfulness Walks and seated Mindfulness Meditations.
    • Every Wednesday (beginning January 4) from 8:30-9:00 a.m., join us for a simple 30-minute seated meditation in the Rec Center (first-come basis, 50 people maximum).
    • Every Saturday (beginning January 7), for a more in-depth experience, find peace in the presence of nature and participate in an hour-long Guided Mindfulness Walk (first-come basis, 25 people maximum). 
  • Tune in every “#Mindful Monday” on DDWS' Facebook page or Instagram for weekly mindfulness tips and moments. Watch our weekly "Ding" on the Wing e-newsletter for more wellness tips.
  • DDWS is committed to providing opportunities for community nature wellness education though in-person and virtual lectures, recommended readings, and other resources. Stay tuned for 2023 lecture details.   

'Ding' Nature Wellness: BODY

There are various physical health benefits to spending time in nature. CLICK HERE to learn about a few from recently retired orthopedic surgeon and Refuge wellness volunteer, Dr. Joe Blanda. 

What we offer for body wellness: 

Engaging, movement-in-nature programs such as:

  • Refuge yoga
  • Ranger-led hiking and biking
  • Nature bootcamp
  • “Walk-with-a-Doc” guided walks by Dr. Joe Blanda
  • Refuge Cleanup with a Ranger
  • Ranger-led tours and hikes

As Refuge programs become available, they will be posted to the Refuge's Eventbrite page. Sign-ups are required and accessibility accommodations available upon request.  

“Ding” Nature Wellness: HEART 

Our definition of “heart” refers not only to what’s beating inside our chests, but also to our innate longing for connection, community, safety, and belonging. The “Ding” Nature Wellness program seeks to bring this heart-centered wellness and conservation approach to our local communities and beyond, via partnerships and initiatives - all with the goal of connecting individuals to themselves, each other, and their planet.

How we get to the heart of the matter:

  • Wellness Week 2023: May 3-10(in correlation with National Mental Health Awareness Week). A week filled with unique in-person and virtual programs, lectures, learnings, and events. All programs are free and will be posted to Eventbrite
  • Our “Mobile Mindfulness Program” brings unique wellness/mindfulness programs to community-based partners and individuals in need, both on- and off-island. Programs can be adapted for any age and run the gamut from ranger-led mindfulness walks to immersive nature journaling.
    • Want to learn more about Mobile Mindfulness? Please contact Ranger Jessica Barry at 239-887-2661.
  • In partnership with the Lee County School District, the installation of elementary, middle, and high school “Pocket Refuge” Pollinator Gardens across Lee County provides a safe, calming space for students to be present and enjoy a pocket of nature. These pollinator gardens provide beautiful native habitat for pollinators and feature engaging “Pollinator Garden Mindfulness” signage, complete with written and audio mindfulness exercises.  
  • “Mindfulness Where You Are” Workbook coming Spring/Summer 2023. Look out for this virtual workbook detailing simple and fun mindfulness in nature exercises appropriate for children and adults.